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The Maple Leafs’ offseason game plan: Help wanted on D

May
03

As each NHL team is eliminated from playoff contention — either mathematically or by losing in the postseason — we’ll take a look at why its quest for the Stanley Cup fell short in 2017-18, along with three keys to its offseason and a way-too-early prediction for what 2018-19 will hold.

From the first round all the way through the Stanley Cup Final, ESPN has you covered. Check out the full picture and coverage on each team.

Would the Toronto Maple Leafs (49-26-70, 105 points) have fared better against the Pittsburgh Penguins than the Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs?

Under the old conferencewide one-vs.-eight format, they would have faced the defending champs, so this is not mere navel-gazing. Instead, they were slotted against a Bruins team that was built for playoff success and had a dominant top line that neutralized the Auston Matthews unit for the Leafs.

“I’m just looking forward to doing the best I can do and giving it my all and seeing where I end up.”

Johnson had 285 rushes for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. He also had eight 100-yard rushing games for the Tigers last year. Meanwhile, the Lions haven’t had a 100-yard rusher in 68 games.

As it stands, Mike Fisher will most certainly center Nashville’s fourth line, but there are some interesting choices about who should play on his wings. At the start of the first-round series with the Colorado Avalanche, Fisher played with Ryan Hartman and Miikka Salomaki. Once healthy, Calle Jarnkrok replaced Salomaki in the lineup, and veteran Scott Hartnell stepped in when Hartman was suspended for Game 6.

All four wingers are available for Game 1 against the Jets, as is prominent rookie Eeli Tolvanen, who played just three games with the team after spending the season with Jokerit Helsinki in the KHL. For that matter, the Predators also have Frederick Gaudreau, Harry Zolnierczyk and Brandon Bollig at their disposal.

According to each player’s scoring rate, and the player’s impact on the team’s share of shot attempts, the best combination would be for Hartnell and Hartman to flank Fisher on the fourth line, although a case could also be made to for Jarnkrok.

With his team facing elimination, Antetokounmpo vowed to be more aggressive following a five-point loss in Game 5.

The two-time All-Star produced in the crunch time, scoring 20 points in the second half on 8-of-14 shooting.
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